My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 6.5

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

The origins of this volume are rather tortured. Around the time that Season 1 of the anime was coming out, they had the author do an episode about the athletics festival, that was not in the novels. This was Episode 13 of Season 1. At the same time, he was asked to do exclusive stories for the BD/DVD releases, and decided to greatly expand this episode into one big novel (yes, despite the .5 in the title, this is NOT a short story volume). The story came out cut into thirds, one per release. It’s now being collected as this volume, which takes place between Vol. 6 and 7 (hence the numbering)… except for the bonus story, based on a CD drama, which takes place right after Volume 9. What does this all add up to? Well, a mixed bag, primarily because (as the author admits in the afterword) he really wanted to bring back a character that no one else really wanted back. (The anime was fine with having her disappear.)

No, I’m not talking about Kawasaki – she gets the cover, but is a minor presence in the book. The “star” of this book is Sagami, the sort-of villain from the 6th novel, who is still dealing with the fallout from the cultural festival. Miura is annoyed that Sagami’s drama is ruining the atmosphere of the classroom. Meanwhile, student council president Megumi wants someone (meaning our trio of heroes) to help her on the Athletic Festival Committee. Combining the two problems, they decide to have Sagami chair the committee, giving her a chance to get things right this time. Unfortunately, things do not go as well as hoped, this time due to two of Sagami’s friends, who are making it clear they are unhappy that the clubs are having to be part of this. Can Hachiman and company find a way to resolve this without sacrificing Sagami entirely? And can they find a way to make the athletics festival fun and interesting?

I’m gonna be honest here: a lot of this book is a retread of the sixth volume. This is deliberate, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Some might say that Oregairu is at its best when wallowing in teenagers being painfully abrasive at each other, and if so, they’ll love the first half of this book, which feels like fingernails on a blackboard. The payoff (Sagami finally doing her job and standing up against her friends) is not really worth the long painful slog we had to read to get there. Unsurprisingly, the best part of that section is the part that was animated – the festival itself. Fortunately, the adaptation of the CD drama works much better, and features Hachiman, Yukino and Yui at their closest. It’s a Christmas party that manages to be free of drama, and I will even forgive its heaping helping of “ha ha, our teacher is old and desperate” jokes because the ending was really sweet.

I guess I’m happy this is a .5 volume – if it had come right after Book 6 I might have thrown it against a wall. This series continues to have rewarding climaxes to excruciating journeys.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 9

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

The first half of this book is rough going, as it continues to mine the trough of awkward despair that our heroes are going through. Hachiman is still dealing with the unspoken fact that he screwed up the Student Council Election for Yukino, though honestly the bigger problem is that it IS unspoken. Isshiki is now student council president, but is having trouble dealing with the rest of the council and also out of her depth. So when she has to come up with a Christmas event with the help of another school, she naturally comes running to the Service Club. Unfortunately, Hachiman’s guilt makes him take on helping her on his own, and he has to confront not only the most irritating character in the entire series to date, but also Orimoto, that girl from middle school, who goes to the other school. And, as a result of his doing this secretly, the Service Club is falling apart. It’s all very depressing.

Thank God for Hiratsuka, then. Acting a bit more proactively than she usually does, the teacher is there to give Hachiman the push he needs to finally confront the club and show actual emotions. This is very much the best scene in the book, and a real emotional breakthrough, at least for him. Yukino is a bit of a tougher nut to crack (as always), but a trip to an amusement part even allows her to open up about her rivalry relationship with her sister… and with Hachiman. Yui doesn’t feature as heavily, basically reduced to her role as the emotional center. That said, solving the situation requires all three of them – Hachiman plans, Yui bonds with everyone, and Yukino takes a firm hand in telling people when to shut the hell up and decide. Which is desperately needed.

As I indicated above, I don’t think I’ve ever found a character quite as punchable as I did Tamanawa, the student council president from the rival school. Honestly, I’d almost have liked it better if he were evil, or at least doing this on purpose for some petty reason. But no, this just seems to be how he deals with things, with the rest of the council (sans Orimoto, who like Hachiman is a dragooned helper) joining in on his business-talk doublespeak. This is hilarious at first, with even Hachiman having trouble following the plethora of buzzwords, but gradually the reader gets as exhausted as he does, and by the end of the book you just want a steamroller to run over Tamanawa (this does not happen). It was also odd seeing the return of Rumi, the young girl Hachiman tried to help in a previous book, though it goes along with the theme of this book and the last one: Hachiman’s help doesn’t always really work. Rumi is still having troubles. Maybe the play will help.

This book is about as well written as the previous one, but the fact that it ends on a big, positive note makes all the difference, and makes it feel much better overall. Not having a sour taste in your mouth is key. Next time, we get another book of short stories as we leap back in time with Vol. 6.5 (which, in Japan, did indeed come out after Vol. 9).

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 8

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

I have to hand it to the author, they are very very good at making me, as a reader, feel thrilling highs and desperate lows. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this series as a whole, each book always seems to end on a low, and so I often end up being depressed after a new volume of it. That said, I do still want to learn what happens next, even if I suspect it will once again be a journey where I grind my teeth and yell at everyone to actually have a decent talk with each other. But the nature of our three protagonists is such that that’s not going to happen – if they did, the series would have ended back at Vol. 3. Instead, buckle up for another adventure with Hachiman, whose cynical and roundabout narrative voice make me want him to meet Zaregoto’s Ii-chan someday. On the bright side, when he suggests his one solution to any problem, people are finally there to tell him to take his idea and shove it.

The soccer club manager we met in the short story volume has been nominated for Student Council President. She doesn’t want to do it, but also doesn’t want to deal with fallout of her dropping out or sabotaging herself. So she asks the club to help out. Hachiman suggests writing a bad speech so that everyone blames the speechwriter (him). This goes over like a lead balloon. Instead, first Yukino and then Yui decide to run against her, which will solve the problem, but also mean they likely would not be in the club any more. This also leaves Hachiman with nothing to do. After the middle of the book, which I will get to in a bit, he bands together with the rest of the main cast and comes up with a third option: convince Iroha that she really WOULD be a good Student Council President, thus removing the original request. Sadly, he does this without thinking of Yukino or Yui, particularly Yukino, and the result is the worst victory ever.

That said, the best reason to get the book are two scenes in the middle of it. The first has Hachiman and Hayama on the double date from hell, as his old classmate from middle school, Orimoto (the one he confessed to) and her friend want to get in with Hayama and he begs Hachiman to come along as he clearly doesn’t want to deal with this. After spending most of said date listening to Orimoto mocking and belittling Hachiman, Hayama snaps and tears them apart, pointing out the close relationships Hachiman has gained in high school. Tellingly, Hachiman is more upset by this than anything else. The second scene, my favorite, has Hachiman, at his lowest ebb, returning home and coming across Komachi, who he’d had a fight with at the start of the book. They make up quickly, and the ensuing conversation that follows is possibly the warmest, most heartwarming scene he’s had in the whole series to date, as he asks Komachi for her help and she talks about how worried she really is for him.

So the middle will make your heart grow three sizes, and the ending will make your face turn pale. But that’s typical of this series, which might better be called My Youth Romantic Soap Opera Is Wrong As I Expected. Like most soap operas, it makes you want to read the next book.